skip navigation
Ahmir Thompson

Ahmir Thompson

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)

Also Known As: Questlove, Questo, Ahmir K. Thompson, Ahmir Thompson, Ahmir Khalib Thompson Died:
Born: January 20, 1971 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Profession:

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

With his distinctive look -- over six feet and 300 pounds, with thick, black-rimmed glasses, a full beard and a hairstyle untamed by the Afro-Pick he habitually kept stuck in it -- Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson became one of the most immediately recognizable figures in hip-hop, working as the drummer and musical director of The Roots. When The Roots became the house band on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," Questlove found a new audience for his cool yet cerebral style, which only expanded when Fallon and The Roots took over "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" (NBC 2014- ).Although Ahmir Khalib Thompson was born and raised in Philadelphia, he spent a fair amount of his childhood on the road, including extensive stays at resort hotels in exotic locations. His father had been a Philadelphia doo-wop singer of some renown as the frontman of Lee Andrews and the Hearts, who scored a trio of hit singles in the late 1950s. By the time Thompson was growing up, in the 1970s, '50s nostalgia had given his father a thriving career on the revival circuit. The future Questlove's mother Jacqui and older sister Donn were already part of the family act; by the age of seven, Thompson was occasionally drumming in his...

With his distinctive look -- over six feet and 300 pounds, with thick, black-rimmed glasses, a full beard and a hairstyle untamed by the Afro-Pick he habitually kept stuck in it -- Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson became one of the most immediately recognizable figures in hip-hop, working as the drummer and musical director of The Roots. When The Roots became the house band on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," Questlove found a new audience for his cool yet cerebral style, which only expanded when Fallon and The Roots took over "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" (NBC 2014- ).

Although Ahmir Khalib Thompson was born and raised in Philadelphia, he spent a fair amount of his childhood on the road, including extensive stays at resort hotels in exotic locations. His father had been a Philadelphia doo-wop singer of some renown as the frontman of Lee Andrews and the Hearts, who scored a trio of hit singles in the late 1950s. By the time Thompson was growing up, in the 1970s, '50s nostalgia had given his father a thriving career on the revival circuit. The future Questlove's mother Jacqui and older sister Donn were already part of the family act; by the age of seven, Thompson was occasionally drumming in his father's band, and before reaching his teens, he became the band's full-time drummer and musical director, making his debut in his new role at New York's Carnegie Hall.

However, as Thompson entered adolescence, his relationship with his parents turned difficult. After introducing their child to a world of soul, funk, Top 40 pop and progressive rock throughout his childhood, Lee and Jacqui had become born-again Christians who disapproved of the teenage Ahmir's fascination with artists like Prince. After a stint in a Christian school in Philadelphia, Thompson entered the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, where his classmates included budding jazz heavyweights like bassist Christian McBride and organist Joey DeFrancesco, and a vocal quartet that was soon to coalesce into Boyz II Men. While in the school's office to purchase some bus tokens, Thompson first made the acquaintance of another student, who had just been caught in flagrante delicto with a female student in one of the school's washrooms. Tariq Trotter, an aspiring visual artist, was notorious around school for being able to drop a freestyle rap on any subject. Soon, Trotter was asking Thompson to provide beats for his lunchroom raps, and before graduation, the pair were busking on Philadelphia's South Street as the Square Roots, adopting the handles Questlove (occasionally ?uestlove) and Black Thought.

The Roots (the prefix having been lost along the way) were not the only hip-hop group to use live instruments. But their 1990s albums, from the live indie debut Organix (1993) to the commercial breakthrough Things Fall Apart (1999), established them both as hip-hop's premier live band and as the center of a growing musical movement that came to be known as neo-soul. Fusing an experimental and open-minded bent with an affection for vintage 1960s and '70s R&B, the neo-soul scene included Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Common and D'Angelo. Around 1999, Questlove joined with James Poyser and J. Dilla (James DeWitt Yancey) to form a production team called the Soulquarians, who worked with all four of those artists and more. 2002's eclectic Phrenology marked a new chapter for The Roots, in which their albums remained critically acclaimed but found difficulty connecting with the mainstream hip-hop audience. By the time of 2008's dystopian Rising Down, the band was considering packing it in.

Instead, The Roots unexpectedly got a second life when they signed on as the house band for "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (NBC 2009-2014). Questlove had experimented with television before, serving as musical director for the cult comedy classic "Chappelle's Show" (Comedy Central 2003-06); Dave Chappelle's writing and producing partner Neal Brennan recommended The Roots to Fallon after the incipient host said he wanted the best band on television. The combination of the music industry's retraction in the late 2000s and a desire to stop touring (since several of the band members now had wives and children) led The Roots to take the job amid some jeering in hip-hop circles. But unlike the tendency for previous talk-show bands to stay in the background, The Roots quickly became an integral part of the success of "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon." Sketches like "Freestylin' With The Roots," which revived Trotter's high-school ability to spit rhymes on any topic at a moment's notice, and "Slow Jam The News," in which Fallon and NBC News anchor Brian Williams explain an important news story over a sexy R&B groove, were immediate favorites. All members of the band participated in comedy bits, and Questlove's ability to find exactly the right obscure tune to play as a guest's walk-on music became one of the show's signature elements. That affinity for tongue-in-cheek jokes caused trouble for the entire show in November 2011 when Questlove led The Roots in a snippet of Fishbone's 1985 ska-punk song "Lyin'-*ss B*tch" as Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann -- at the time under fire for regularly making political claims unsupported by facts -- walked on stage.

Even more importantly, through its imaginative music booker Jonathan Cohen and the musically gifted Fallon's knack for inspired parody, "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" showcased the impressive range of The Roots, who backed artists in a wide variety of styles during the musical segments. This led to a new round of collaborations for The Roots, who brought guests like Dirty Projectors singer Amber Coffman, My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James, indie-folk harpist Joanna Newsom and multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens onto their albums How I Got Over (2010) and Undun (2011). They also recorded full-album collaborations with soul stars John Legend and Betty Wright and new wave icon Elvis Costello. In April 2013, it was announced that The Roots would continue to be Fallon's house band for his takeover of "The Tonight Show" (NBC 1954- ) in February 2014. In May 2013, Questlove published his first book, the memoir Mo' Meta Blues: The World According To Questlove, in collaboration with The New Yorker journalist Ben Greenman. In late 2014, Questlove's longtime friend D'Angelo released his first album in 14 years, Black Messiah, which included considerable production and musical support from Questlove. Early in 2015, the drummer made a cameo appearance on his longtime friend Amy Poehler's series "Parks and Recreation" (NBC 2009-2015), playing the estranged brother of parks employee Donna Meagle (Retta).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1993:
The Roots' first album, <i>Organix</i> is released.
1996:
The Roots score their first Top 40 single, "What They Do"
1999:
First Gold record, <i>Things Fall Apart</i>.
2000:
Produced D'Angelo's <i>Voodoo</i>.
2009:
The Roots become house band on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon".
2013:
First book published, <i>Mo' Meta Blues: The World According To Questlove</i>.
2014:
The Roots become the house band on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts: - 1985

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute